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The cable companies vs. the TV companies


bradm
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I've seen a lot of ads lately about the proposal from (what I'll call) the TV companies (Global, CTV, etc., the companies who own and operate most local TV channels) to the CRTC that the cable companies (Rogers, Bell, etc.) be forced to pay them for providing their channels' content to their subscribers, and from the thinking I've been doing about it, I've concluded that there is idiocy and mis-statements on both sides.

First, the cable companies are claiming that the TV companies are proposing a "TV tax" of up to $10 a month be levied against individuals. The problem with that is that any such charge wouldn't be a tax, as it's not going to the government. As well, the TV companies aren't proposing that individual subscribers pay the fees, they want to get the fees from the cable companies; it's the cable companies who would pass that fee on to subscribers.

There's also one ad that has a person interviewed in the street say, "But don't the TV companies already get funding?" The interviewer doesn't answer, and it's not stated exactly what "funding" means; the ad also includes the fact that the TV companies had a combined profit of $400 million last year, without stating what the combined profit of the cable companies is.

The ads also refer only to the big guys: CTV, Global, etc., without mentioning the independent stations. In Ottawa, CHRO The New RO A Channel recently dropped all of its news coverage, except for its morning program. Similarly, CHCH in Hamilton recently switched to running news and movies only. To my thinking, these are the channels that need support (especially for their news coverage, which is usually a money-loser for TV stations), but they're not included in the companies that the cable companies are targeting.

As well, the ads don't include the fact that the cable companies pay for content, just not the local stuff (this fact is also omitted), which seems a little unfair to me.

But on the other hand, the TV companies aren't really arguing from a "harm" (or cost recoupment) point of view, they're arguing from a fairness point of view: since the cable companies pay for some channels' content (e.g., American cable stations), it seems only fair to them that they should be paid, too. I understand where they're coming from, but the problem I have with this argument is that the TV companies actually benefit from being carried by cable companies, as it boosts their ratings at no (or very little) cost to them. I doubt very much that there are people who have both cable TV and an antenna; if the cable companies dropped the TV companies' channels, the ratings of those channels would plummet severely.

So I'm not sure where I stand on the issue. Part of me wants to voice some of these concerns on

http://www.stopthetvtax.ca/

and

http://localtvmatters.ca/

but I have a feeling the thoughts I gave above might not be welcome. Your thoughts here, though, are welcome.

Aloha,

Brad

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I'm on the fence but also call bullshit on both sides,

On one hand, the Cable Companies should somehow be compelled to have all the Canadian Content that it can while paying for it as they profit from our subscriptions...

...On the other, many of the companies that claim that Cable owes them money purchase (mostly) American programming.

In Media, the change of programming seems to me to be a loss in profits, not an ACTUAL loss.

When TV is mandated to adhere to Canadian Content like Radio Broadcasting, I'll think about taking it nearly as seriously as I take Radio Broadcasting...which for the most part I find to be a huge joke.

The fact is, that few broadcasters/content providers take their viewers/listeners seriously and when they do it's maligned to the point of treating them more as ratings and market share than individuals that deserve respect.

Use the internet. Get a Netflix Membership or go to the cool local video store, or spend the money on the cinema (a bytowne membership (Ottawa) is a better deal than cable IMO)

Digital antennas make great stocking stuffers.

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When TV is mandated to adhere to Canadian Content like Radio Broadcasting, I'll think about taking it nearly as seriously as I take Radio Broadcasting...which for the most part I find to be a huge joke.

It already is. This includes cable and certain satellite stations.

Personally, as much as I feel I am over-paying ($27 a month) for television considering how much I watch I'd still rather support the Canadian broadcasters/stations then pass my money to some American company like netflix.

Since I don't care for crowding up with a bunch of strangers in a theater & paying $20 for a film I may not like and then be able to rent for $5 only a few weeks later I don't see any adavantage to it, but thats my personal preference. Last time I went to a theater (outside of TIFF) was in the late 90s.

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When TV is mandated to adhere to Canadian Content like Radio Broadcasting, I'll think about taking it nearly as seriously as I take Radio Broadcasting...which for the most part I find to be a huge joke.
It already is. This includes cable and certain satellite stations.

While there is content restriction, it's not 1/3 of programming - hourly.

Another way Cable providers have been mandated to adhere to Canadian Content in the past is through hijacking US Stations by beaming the Canadian Feed to those stations and replacing advertising. I haven't noticed it as much lately but I'd much rather be advertised to with items I can't get and have no way to buy than with local advertising.

There's still no real push for Canadian Programming on a channel-by-channel basis hour by hour as in Radio by Canadians - we still watch crap television and pay more than ever for the services to do so.

IMO, If we're subject to advertising in our feed then TV should be free.

Do you watch mostly 'Public Television' or are you watching major networks, Esau?

Either way, $27 a month for cable - though low on the scale of pay-television - is too much for advertised programming.

Personally, as much as I feel I am over-paying ($27 a month) for television considering how much I watch I'd still rather support the Canadian broadcasters/stations then pass my money to some American company like netflix.

zip.ca then. Mail Order DVD rental is what I'm getting at. There's also canflix.com, and rogersvideodirect.ca

http://onlinedvdrentalguide.ca/reviews.php?site_id=42

Save a month's worth of cable fees and get a digital antenna?

FWIW, when you watch Canadian Television Providers but watch American Programming you ARE passing your money to 'Some American Company'

Since I don't care for crowding up with a bunch of strangers in a theater & paying $20 for a film I may not like and then be able to rent for $5 only a few weeks later I don't see any adavantage to it, but thats my personal preference. Last time I went to a theater (outside of TIFF) was in the late 90s.

Good point...though I was mostly referring to 'indie cinema' which mostly takes longer to get to video...I think the independent video store that has a range of hard-to-get titles fits the bill nicely.

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The thing is, the big TV companies started this mess in the first place, but I'll happily pay more money per month if the extra charge indeed goes to save local television stations. Without local news/programming, communities will lose even more of their cultural identity.

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First off, I apologize Brad, this hasn't really been on topic I suppose and I'm not really getting on it with my next post either.

While there is content restriction, it's not 1/3 of programming - hourly.

Another way Cable providers have been mandated to adhere to Canadian Content in the past is through hijacking US Stations by beaming the Canadian Feed to those stations and replacing advertising. I haven't noticed it as much lately but I'd much rather be advertised to with items I can't get and have no way to buy than with local advertising.

Out of curiosity, how do you know it is not 1/3? I certainly couldn't say it is, but I also couldn't say it isn't. I just don't watch, follow or know enough about the programs airing now-a-days to be sure.

You have to consider that the Cancon requirements refer to "content that was at least partly written, produced, presented, or otherwise contributed to by persons from Canada". With radio being a smaller, more obvious and up front media in comparison to television it's more apparent which content is Canadian, at least to me anyway. I'm sure someone who follows the television industry to the same degree I (or we) follow the music industry it's easy to recognize what content is Canadian, or falls under Cancon.

IMO, If we're subject to advertising in our feed then TV should be free.

So, what your saying is, you basically want something for free at the cost of other Canadians & Canadian business. You do realize that these stations employ/pay a lot of people don't you? Not just those who work at or directly for the station either.

If advertising were to be covering 100% of the costs of airing these programs and we didn't have to pay for the service then how do you think that would effect the prices from the businesses that buy television advertising? I suspect we would be complaining that places like Canadian Tire (for example) are charging way too much for their products.

As an example: Should I (when I'm working), being an electrician not get paid for working 40-60+ hours a week because places like the steel mills, hydro plants and even the television stations (who do you think erects & climbs those giant towers to maintain them?) charge for their service and advertise their product to which we are "subjected to".

As for what I watch on TV, I watch about 15-20 hours a week of TV, on occasion maybe more and I'm pretty sure the channels are Canadian owned, I don't watch prime-time tv. Of course there are exceptions (eg: NHL hockey) where I am obviously watching prime-time/American TV but for the most part I stick to Canadian channels & programming the best I can, just like radio. I relate to it and I enjoy Canadian programs. Then again, I am not crying I want something for free either.

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From what I can gather working 17 years in the television broadcasting industry (not including 3 years at Ryerson studying Radio & Television Arts), all Canadian TV companies (and radio stations) must provide at least 35 per cent Cancon. I work for CTV/MuchMusic and even with music videos, we have to air at least 35 per cent Canadian-centric programming, or risk being fined by the CRTC (and the fines are pretty steep). CRTC even keeps tabs on the promos we air. When I have to, I normally drop promos every day that promote American shows, just to be safe.

Anyway, CHCH in Hamilton recently went up for sale for $1. It would be tragedy if the Hammer and surrounding area lost its local station. Don't think for a second that all A channels are under threat of closure along with all CBC affiliates, although they are better off due to government funding.

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One big difference, Jaimoe, is that Radio has to provide the CanCon hourly while Television (to my knowledge) does not.

One thing I'm curious about though, is does that also include PSAs, Promos and Advertising?

As far as me 'crying I want something free' - I'm not. When I live somewhere that Cable/Satellite is there then great, but I'm in no rush to subscribe. I won't pay for television but will watch commercials on TV if they're on.

I will pay to rent videos, go to concerts, to the movie theatre, or any number of other options that DON'T break up my time to pay for content.

However, as far as my original comment goes, broadcasters recoup costs with advertising revenues. When they can't sell advertising then they don't recoup costs.

When they provide the same prime-time programming as other stations instead of spending their money on something different/better I have far less sympathy for their failed efforts.

On-Air broadcasters (the ones that actually transmit signals and don't just send a feed to the cable/satellite companies to do that for them) have the added cost of running the transmitter and dealing with the licensing that requires.

I believe that those broadcasters should be paid for their signal just like any other content provider.

As for CHCH going up for sale for $1 - in a time where lowered profits are treated as actual losses, the sale of this station seems rather dubious.

From Wiki:

Regulations

For broadcast stations, the CRTC presently requires that 60% of all programming broadcast between 6:00am and midnight, and 50% of programming aired between 6:00pm and midnight, be of Canadian origin.[3] However, historically, much of these requirements have been fulfilled by low-cost news, current affairs and talk programs in off-peak hours. It is usually not difficult to fill the daytime schedule with a sufficient amount of Cancon, often through reruns, while two-thirds of the latter requirement can be filled simply by airing an hour of news every night at 6PM and again at 11PM. As described above, often the remaining domestic content has consisted of low-cost science fiction or drama programming primarily intended for sale to the U.S. and elsewhere, and has aired on nights or in time-slots where it is unlikely to attract a large audience, freeing up other time-slots for American network programming.

Over the years the CRTC has tried a number of strategies intended to increase the success of Canadian programming, including expenditure requirements and time credits (i.e. a single hour of Cancon counts for more than an hour) for productions with specific requirements. Its most recent policy, issued in 1999, requires stations owned by the largest private groups, including CTV/A, Global/E!, Citytv/OMNI, and TVA/Sun TV, to air an average of eight hours per week (between 7 and 11 p.m.) of priority programming, including the following categories:

drama (for CRTC purposes "drama" includes scripted comedies)

variety

documentaries

entertainment newsmagazines

Drama programs which meet specific requirements, including the number of Canadians in key production roles, can count for additional time credits for this purpose but not for the purposes of the overall 60%/50% requirements. (Global/E! and Citytv/A-Channel are generally prohibited from sharing priority programming.)

These current regulations have been criticised by actors' and directors' groups, among others, for not adequately favouring dramas. Indeed, reality television series began to grow in popularity soon after the policy was announced, driving Canadian broadcasters to produce more of these programs as opposed to higher-cost dramas. (For instance, the audition episodes of Canadian Idol could qualify as "documentaries", and the performance / results episodes as "variety".) As well, entertainment newsmagazines now regularly air during the "priority" period on CTV (eTalk Daily), Global (ET Canada), E! (E! News Weekend), and Sun TV (Inside Jam!), largely due to their priority standing.

The CRTC later modified its policies slightly by increasing the incentives for airing new drama programs. Broadcasters could receive additional minutes of advertising above the 12 minutes per hour generally permitted, which could be aired anywhere in the schedule, in exchange for increasing the number of Canadian dramas aired and meeting certain other drama-related targets. However, these are not mandatory targets. Moreover, in 2007 the commission effectively negated these incentives by announcing the gradual removal of all limits on TV advertising. Several cultural lobby groups and performing-arts labour unions have called on the CRTC to compel the major networks to air a minimum number of hours of Canadian drama, or spend an arbitrary percentage of revenues on producing such drama programs.

Requirements for specialty channels and premium television services — channels available only on cable and satellite — often differ greatly from those of broadcast stations. Most long-established specialty channels are expected to devote at least 50% of airtime to Cancon, while category 2 digital channels and most premium services have much lower restrictions. However, specialty channels are allowed to take part in the advertising incentives.

So, Until Canadian Broadcasters actually embrace the programming guidelines as an opportunity to make some of the world's best content, it seems that they will continue to merely fulfill the obligations of their license.

I have compassion but very little sympathy.

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Television broadcasters are monitored 24-7 by the CRTC police. I assume radio must monitor itself to some extent; TV monitors itself too, but I know for a fact we are under constant surveillance.

Cancon indeed includes promos, but I don't think it includes commercials because most if not all commercials are for the Canadian market. It makes sense if you think about it.

When a Canadian network airs a US show at the same time as the American channel but subs in Canadian commericals - such as Global airing Bones at the same time as Fox - its called a simulcast. This is a common way to generate regional and/or nationally based TV revenue. This procedure is common everywhere in North America; it's not just a Canada/US thing.

Broadcasters live and die by ratings. They sell advertising when ratings are up or steady, however, when times are tough, ratings don't always work. For example, when the auto industry crashed, stations were hard hit since car manufacturers invest tens if not hundreds of millions on TV advertising.

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My apologies, Jaimoe, (and everyone else that works in Television) if I came off as resentful or spiteful of the industry, as (of course) ratings sustain or maim Broadcasters.

I really do hope that content providers and viewers can be on the same page in regards to improving the quality of the content that is provided. Sure people think they 'like' shows like Entertainment Tonight and TMZ, Survivor, big brother etc etc...and think that the News they're watching is 'great'...but we have a long way to go before any of that actually IS.

I can't really assert that it's ALL crap but until MOST of it ISN'T, please don't take my comments personally, as you make a living bending to the ratings driven by viewers that opt to watch that crap instead of demanding better programming - vocally and in letter writing campaigns.

Lately I've been most impressed with the CBC properties (Docs, Bold, and CBC News and CBC), SCN, and TVO - but from time to time the other networks do have some shows that keep me around for a half or full hour - Mostly cable stations, but from time to time it's a 'network'.

I really hope that TV in general fixes the problem of there being no industry standard for audio volume output. Commercials are intensely loud and many channels have widely varied volume levels.

Definitely more annoying than lackluster content...one more great reason to read books.

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Well, getting networks to improve their content is a complex issue and a potentially costly one. CTV and Global often take the easy (i.e. cheap) way out, such as Canadianizing US shows such as Idol and So You Think You Can Dance. However, I do think local news offers a fairly good product given that budgets are tight.

Another problem is the proliferation of sub-par digital channels, which is doing more damage to the core channels than good.

Also, stations without a vision or the balls to produce unique and/or quality programs will eventually fail, IMO. The CBC and TVO are different breeds, of course. The CBC doesn't have to worry as much about ratings, which enables it to produce and/or co-produce some really unique programs of quality such as The Tudors, Doctor Who, Rick Mercer and even Being Erica, not to mention some very good TV films and/or mini-series. But there's also crap: The Ron James Show and This Hour Has 22 Minutes (which is a shadow of its former self).

Actually, Booche and I have discussed in the past that we are currently in another golden age of televison (and music for that matter). The only difference this time out is that, you as a viewer, has to really seek out good shows on your own. It was easy in the old days with 3-6 channels to choose from.

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I really hope that TV in general fixes the problem of there being no industry standard for audio volume output. Commercials are intensely loud and many channels have widely varied volume levels.

I had asked this question to a friend who used to work at CHCH, this is the gist of what she told me. If I had the email still I'd repost as it has much more detailed information.

The CRTC might not regulate the volume of programs or commercials, but it's the broadcast license that restricts the peaks a transmitter can use to send out audio or video signals. So this means, the loudest commercial can never surpass the volume of the loudest part of the program. TV programs have mixed audio levels used to build dramatic effect, but advertisers want to get their point across without being as subtle. So commercials run at the loudest peak volume allowed from beginning to end.

While there is content restriction, it's not 1/3 of programming - hourly.
One big difference, Jaimoe, is that Radio has to provide the CanCon hourly while Television (to my knowledge) does not.
it seems that they will continue to merely fulfill the obligations of their license.

Wait, what?

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The CRTC might not regulate the volume of programs or commercials, but it's the broadcast license that restricts the peaks a transmitter can use to send out audio or video signals. So this means, the loudest commercial can never surpass the volume of the loudest part of the program. TV programs have mixed audio levels used to build dramatic effect, but advertisers want to get their point across without being as subtle. So commercials run at the loudest peak volume allowed from beginning to end.

Not only is it maximum volume, but it's compressed...it's all loud, not just a peak - the quietest sounds are still loud.

it seems that they will continue to merely fulfill the obligations of their license.

Wait, what?

Look above to Jaimoe's comment about this 'golden age'...and I agree. When it's PSAs, canadianizing american/foreign ideas, and making lacklustre/crap under the guise of funding/budget then the issue is that a station is adhering to the guidelines rather than using them to move their station forward and in many cases (or so it seems) trying to only put the minimum effort into their programming.

...stations without a vision or the balls to produce unique and/or quality programs will eventually fail...

-Jaimoe

Too bad for all of the people employed by those stations.

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Look above to Jaimoe's comment about this 'golden age'...and I agree. When it's PSAs, canadianizing american/foreign ideas, and making lacklustre/crap under the guise of funding/budget then the issue is that a station is adhering to the guidelines rather than using them to move their station forward and in many cases (or so it seems) trying to only put the minimum effort into their programming

Unless I'm missing something, I don't think anyone was debating or saying otherwise about the quality (or lack thereof) of the content used to meet the cancon requirements.

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But when content providers just barely meet their requirements, viewership remains low which then impacts advertising revenues.

Which leads to more cutting corners and getting to the point (where we are now) that they NEED the money and are pointing fingers at cable providers when they could have kept their revenues up had they not been so shortsighted about all of this.

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